Given the nature of the Switch’s detachable Joy-Con, the console has plenty of couch co-op titles worthy of cracking out with friends. A few examples really stand out, like the delightful Overcooked series and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, but there is arguably nothing that has quite managed to match the sheer joy that Snipperclips - Cut It Out, Together! brought when it launched alongside the Switch back in 2017. At least, nothing until now.
Heave Ho is a couch co-op game that is deceptively simple in premise, requiring up to four players to navigate a series of increasingly complex levels in order to reach the end goal. The twist here is that each player can only control their respective character’s arms. By moving the analogue stick around, your chosen character will swing his/her arms around. You can then grip onto any surface with either hand, with your left hand mapped to 'L', and your right to 'R'. By utilising your character’s body as momentum, you effectively swing and heave your way across surfaces in order to progress through the stages.
In single player, this practice is pretty straightforward - you can simply swing your way along the surface of platforms, alternating between your left and right hand to gain momentum. In multiplayer, it’s a bit more nuanced, allowing you to grip each other’s hands and effectively form a living chain of characters, acting as a rope you can swing back and forth in order to reach more distant ledges. Of course, this requires a great deal of communication and coordination; each player needs to understand their role in the process and, perhaps more importantly, remember which arm to focus on at all times. Sessions can very quickly fall apart if someone accidentally lets go or reaches for a platform with the wrong limb.
Experimentation is key for a lot of the levels - you may even need to launch (or heave - ahem!) one another from one platform to the next. As you progress, it gets even more treacherous, with electrified ledges threatening instant death, and even completely invisible platforms that almost encourage you to fail (falling off the stage will cause a fountain of ‘blood’ to spray across the screen, coating any surface it touches). You might even see a llama trudging across the stage before breaking wind to obscure the stage in a dense cloud of… well, gas.
Aside from the main levels, you’ll occasionally get the opportunity to take part in some fun little mini games. At random points during the main game, a golden rope will dangle from one of the platforms. Grabbing hold of this will launch a mini game. Our favourite featured a twist on the game of basketball. You need to swing down to the underside of a ledge, grab one of the three basketballs beneath you, and - using your character’s momentum - launch the ball towards a moving basket. Scoring points will then reward you with coins, which you can use to purchase costumes.
Costumes! We love a good bit of character customisation, and Heave Ho features dozens of costumes to purchase with collectable coins. This includes basic stuff like a swimmers costume and a space marine outfit, but you can also dress up your characters with costumes from some other Devolver Digital franchises, such as Gato Roboto. Additionally, you can change individual features of your character, such as hair, facial features, arms, and even their voices. The voices in particular are used to brilliant effect. They don’t actually say anything, but you can press 'X' to cheer in joy, and 'A' to groan in frustration at any time. It’s genuinely hilarious when two or more characters cheer in unison upon completing a stage.
Unfortunately, where Heave Ho falls down slightly is in its variety of stages. There are plenty to choose from, with each group of stages featuring specific themes and challenges. The problem though, is that although you can choose between single player and multiplayer in the main menu, the actual stages themselves are exactly the same regardless of whether you’re on your own or with a group of friends. It almost begs the question if you can clear the stages on your own, is there really much of an incentive to go through it all again with friends (and vice versa)? Trying to navigate the same stages with friends does require different tactics compared to when you’re alone, but we think a game like this would have benefited greatly from specific multiplayer stages to mix things up a bit.
Heave Ho doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of Snipperclips, but it’s still one of the best couch co-op titles to hit the Switch. It encourages communication and careful planning, but remains utterly chaotic and achingly hilarious, with a fantastic selection of unique costumes to unlock as you progress. The fact that you’ll face the same stages whether you’re playing multiplayer or single player is undoubtedly a big disappointment, but it’s great fun whatever way you decide to play it.